By Steve Czaban Special to Published Apr 16, 2008 at 5:15 AM

So, it has come down to this...

The National Football League -- with its $20 billion in accumulated franchise value, its $17.5 billion dollar network TV contract and its $5 billion of annual operating profit -- against a golf pro from Hawaii who says he illegally taped practices for the New England Patriots.

Is there any wonder why the guy wants full immunity before Roger Goodell closes the door behind him and starts asking questions?

The long, slow stalemate of "Spygate" -- as it now is etched, indelibly in shorthand, in league history - is still nowhere near resolution.

(Note: Any incident in life that ends in "-gate" generally is not good.)

And good luck finding any intrepid reporters or newspapers hungry enough to chase this story into a corner.

The NFL is saying "It's over. Move along." Maybe if they say it enough, the crowd will disperse.

Not me.

I want to see the end of this movie. And I have all the patience in the world.

Matt Walsh has been dragging his feet, refusing to go into Goodell's office to tell him what he knows about the Patriots' home videos. Walsh has lawyers. He wants full immunity.

He's smart.

If you read the subtle signs from league owners and the commissioner, you can see what is going on. Basically, it goes like this:

If Walsh comes forward and pulls a Sgt. Schultz - "I know NUT-THING!" - then he has wasted a lot of money on lawyers and has not slept well for two months for absolutely no reason.

But, if Walsh comes forward with the goods - "I have a copy of the Rams walk-through, as I was instructed by Bill Belichick. What do you want it in? Beta? VHS? DVD? Or should I just fire it up onto YouTube?" - then the league will exert its considerable might to discredit, intimidate, and bankrupt the guy.

So in a normal world, one where a sports league would seek the absolute truth about a serious cheating scandal and gladly grant immunity to those with information, Walsh's story already would have been vetted and the facts would have been disclosed.

This is not a normal world, however.

This is a league enjoying unprecedented popularity, revenues and stability. There is too much at stake. Even if most fans believe Belichick's cheating was just a card counter's edge and nothing more, the dark fear of the NFL is that its own gold standard of competitive credibility will be lumped in with that of the NBA.

All of this tells me instinctively, although not factually, that there is something there.

Perhaps something big.

Part of me wondered why the NFL didn't "get their arms around" this thing months ago, Tony Soprano style? Why didn't the league make this offer to Walsh: come tell us everything you know, and we'll not only protect you from any lawsuits, but we're going to pay you six figures to sign off on our version of the truth when we go public.

Everybody has a price. Certainly a golf pro from Hawaii would have traded any sense of honor for a number that has five zeros and a comma.

But now he's talked, and a Boston newspaper says he's got the goods. It's too far down the road for all that. It's "all-in" time, and I'm betting the NFL's massive stack of chips is going to bully itself into stealing this hand.

"I'm a little frustrated," Goodell said. "Matt Walsh is free to speak to anybody, but he has asked for some considerations. We have met with over 50 people and he's the only one indicating he has conditions. If he has either a tape or information that would be helpful, I would be eager to get it."

You wonder if he left out... "and destroy it." We know what happened the last time somebody gave a sensitive tape to Goodell. It was like getting a ride home from a party with Ted Kennedy.

Of course lots of other people who saw "something" in this case have talked to the Commish. Walsh might just have the dead body.

He's not stupid.

And he's not going away.




Steve Czaban Special to

Steve is a native Washingtonian and has worked in sports talk radio for the last 11 years. He worked at WTEM in 1993 anchoring Team Tickers before he took a full time job with national radio network One-on-One Sports.

A graduate of UC Santa Barbara, Steve has worked for WFNZ in Charlotte where his afternoon show was named "Best Radio Show." Steve continues to serve as a sports personality for WLZR in Milwaukee and does fill-in hosting for Fox Sports Radio.